April 20, 2015 --
Holding simulated knives outlined with red lipstick in their hands, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program students Sgt. Nathan Phelps and Cpl. Ariana Atterberry squared off against each other.
Phelps, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds, sized up Atterberry and said to himself, “This should be no problem, I can take her.”
At 4 feet 8 inches tall and 105 pounds, Atterberry thought the opposite, “I’m going to take him.”
Just seconds into the bout, Atterberry lunged forward with her simulated knife and thrust it into Phelps’ major organ, leaving a smeared, faux blood stain on his white T-shirt.
The forward thrust is one of many knife fighting techniques Atterberry honed during her training at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program dojo, recently.
Atterberry does not express regret for her height, weight or gender, but rather uses it to her advantage.
“I have to be quicker than (my opponent),” Atterberry, 23, a native of Newark, New Jersey, said. “Everyone is bigger than me and having (an opponent) that is 50 pounds heavier, or more, is pretty (tough), but you do what you have to do.
“The bigger you are, the slower you are,” she said. “When they come at me with all their weight and momentum, I have to be faster and tackle them and put them in a headlock. It’s thinking about what your opponent is going to do and trying to counter it.”
Sgt. Charles Corley, MCMAP instructor, MCLB Albany, described Atterberry as committed with a can-do, positive attitude, who does not use her size as an excuse.
“When she gets taken down, she gets right back up without hesitation and she charges her opponent at full speed,” Corley said. “She likes to be at the disadvantage and I feel like she finds that as an advantage. What she lacks in size, she makes up in attitude.”
Corley said Atterberry executes her techniques with more proficiency than other larger Marines he has trained.
“Some of the bigger Marines use their size and strength as they go through the techniques,” he said. “For Atterberry, she lacks that size, so she has to be more proficient with each technique such as the wrist lock, arm bars and counter moves.”
Atterberry admitted her biggest challenge during the green belt training was the obstacle course.
“We were going through the obstacle course and she is jumping and trying to grab onto another log, but she could not make it because she is short,” he said. “Although she did not make it, she never stopped trying to get the log.”
Atterberry noted she liked testing her grappling skills because, “I like being worn out and seeing if I can still get the advantage on someone else (when grappling).”
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program motto is, “One mind, any weapon.”
“No matter who or what size my opponent is, woman or man, they don’t care how small I am because they already have it in their minds to hurt (me),” she said. “In a real world situation, you would have to apply all the principles you learned through MCMAP (and have) a combat mind set.”